Luka Doncic is back like he never left.
The All-Star guard looked good as new in his first game back after missing seven-straight contests with an ankle injury. As a result, the Dallas Mavericks handled the Sacramento Kings to give the team a much-needed win heading into the All-Star break.
We'll get into how Doncic did in his return game, but beyond that, how did the Mavericks fare in the seven games without their superstar? Who stepped up for the team when their best player was down?
We have answers to those questions below.
Luka Doncic returns
The Don was back, and he was good. ✨@luka7doncic | #MFFL pic.twitter.com/PUGwfpe3Yq- Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) February 13, 2020
But first things first, Luka Doncic was fantastic in his first game back.
Doncic was forced to miss seven games after suffering an ankle injury in practice back on Jan. 30. He had tweaked that same right ankle that caused him to miss four games in the middle of December, but the All-Star guard has healed fairly quickly on both occasions.
With the way that Doncic performed in this contest, you wouldn't have guessed he was easing back from any sort of injury.
The 20-year-old star went off for a near triple-double in the team's win over the Kings, going for 33 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. Doncic shot 10-for-18 from the field, 3-for-7 from 3-point range and got to the line 12 times, sinking 10 of those attempts.
He put his court vision on display right away with this fancy no-look pass:
This was pretty nice. #MFFL @luka7doncic | @MaxiKleber- Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) February 13, 2020
📺: https://t.co/gFo40lv08y pic.twitter.com/OkxKWIFyoE
And his ankle appeared to be just fine on this smooth spin move through traffic for a layup:
Full spin into a lefty layup? Yep, that's an All-Star.@luka7doncic | #MFFL- Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) February 13, 2020
📺: https://t.co/gFo40lv08y pic.twitter.com/C37JNxjGZD
Doncic picked up right where he left off, playing MVP-calibre basketball.
How did the Mavericks do while Doncic was out?
Incase you haven't been following the Mavericks while Doncic was out; Dallas went 3-4 without their All-Star guard. They went 2-2 in the four games without Doncic back in December, owning a mediocre 5-6 record without their star player.
When Luka got hurt, the Mavericks were in fifth place in the Western Conference, just 2.5 games back from the No. 4 seed - meaning home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. After this first win with Doncic back in the lineup, Dallas enters the All-Star break with a 33-22 record, sitting in sixth-place, just 3.0 games back from the No. 4 seed.
Flirting with a .500 record without an MVP candidate on the floor isn't bad by any means, but how have the Mavericks gotten the job done without Doncic?
Kristaps Porzingis was a monster in this recent stint without Luka.
The second-half of the Mavericks duo averaged 28.8 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.6 steals, one block and one assist over the seven games on extremely efficient shooting splits of 48.8/39.5/87.8.
His double-double of a season-high 38 points and 12 rebounds in a close win over the Indiana Pacers is a great indicator that this special talent is beginning to look all the way back from that knee injury that kept him sidelined all last season.
Season-high 38 points.- Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) February 4, 2020
BIG W.@kporzee | #MFFL pic.twitter.com/JHm5Mr2a2U
Other than Porzingis, Seth Curry - who averages 11.4 points per game on the season - averaged 18.4 points shooting a blistering 55.9% from 3 during the seven game stretch, while Tim Hardaway Jr. - who averages 14.7 points per game on the season - upped his scoring to 18.1 points per game in that same timespan.
But the one player who quite literally filled Doncic's shoes in the starting lineup was Jalen Brunson.
Brunson helped keep this team going during Luka's absence, averaging 15.2 points, 4.7 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game. He's proved he's more than just a quality back-up point guard, but also a player that head coach Rick Carlisle can rely on if he needs an uptick in minutes.
If Porzingis and the rest of this supporting cast can keep this up with Doncic back in the fold, the Mavericks should continue to be a very fun team to watch in the second half of the season.
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